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Business Line

Why Starting a Business Is Like Slow Cooking

New business owners often want to create a business the way we prepare an instant frozen dinner. Pop into the microwave, press a button and enjoy dinner almost immediately. But for long-lasting business growth, think of starting from scratch, simmering slowly and waiting till you’re really ready to serve.
Now I am being biased here, but I refuse to eat frozen meals. They taste like cardboard. They tend to have lots of preservatives. Even the dog will turn up her nose when I offer her the leftovers.
When I take the time to cook a meal from scratch – stir fry, simmer or bake – I find the labor often isn’t much greater. The resulting meal tastes about 100 times better and you know exactly where the ingredients came from. It’s also more satisfying.
So how does this apply to business? If you look around the Internet you see all kinds of ads promising to get your business off to a FAST start. You hear stories of people who skyrocketed to success.
First of all, many people who jumped to success have a hidden X factor: a background in sales (the ultimate ingredient in copywriting) or a few years where they plugged away learning – usually some combination of luck and persistence that’s the 90% you don’t see.
But taking the longer path may be more desirable. Why would you ever want to do that?
(1) It’s a good idea to move slowly when you start without a lot of money. You may need to take a j.o.b. so you can invest in your business. This strategy makes better sense than starting a business without any resources. If you can’t afford $97 for an eBook or you’re watching the minutes on your cell phone, you won’t make a lot of progress.
(2) Sometimes you need time to figure out your business. If you don’t have a background in sales (or a business background where you had to get clients) you will need more time to find your way in this new world. “Margaret” spent nearly a year learning her way around her new field. She did lots of pro bono work, studied and began finding clients before investing in a web site.
(3) You’re forced to do one thing at a time. Work on just one eBook and promote that eBook hard. Work on one niche and build up your profitability.
Then take what you learn and start the next project. One step at a time, you’ll reach a more satisfying destination.…

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Business Checks

6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask About Every New Idea

I love entrepreneurs! Generally, I’ve noticed a drive and a determination that takes creative-minded, bootstrapping, do-it-yourselfers a long way. Those who show true ingenuity, persistence, and resilience inspire us all to have a brighter attitude.
I also love entrepreneurs because they ask me to help them with things like logo and graphic design, social media strategy, and web-based user experience. Oh, and I charge for those things, so it’s doubly-nice.
One thing I’ve noticed, however, about super-entrepreneurs is that their minds tend to race about 10,000 RPMs with cool, new ideas. I really wonder how many ideas are eventually left laying in the dust, not because they weren’t good ideas, but because not quite enough thought and planning went into them.
Having received tons of emails with ideas from entrepreneurs hoping to take an idea big-time, I thought I’d throw together this list of the six things I either say, or want to say in response. They are mostly questions, not recommendations, but the questions themselves are often overlooked.
Is it possible?
I know this one sounds obvious. If it weren’t would I be asking about the idea to begin with? And aren’t all things possible to those who believe? Certainly, but quite a few great ideas are laying in graves because the technology was either not ready, or too expensive.
Who else is doing it?
Use search engines and social networks to scout out the potential competition. Sometimes you wind up jumping into an arena filled with insurmountable competition. You’re probably not going to start the business that will topple an Amazon or Apple.
Can it be done well remarkably?
Doing something well doesn’t make it successful. Doing it well enough to get noticed does. Can you execute the idea in such a way that people will buy into it?
Do I have accesses to the resources to get it done?
This thought may sound strange, but some ideas are good (or noble) enough that you should consider handing it off to someone who can get it done. And every good entrepreneur knows that “resources” aren’t limited to the money in your pocket. It includes the money in other people’s pockets as well!
Is the idea something I’m passionate enough about to stick with over the long haul?
Pretty self-explanatory. Most of us have been there, burying an idea for which we had great enthusiasm, but didn’t see the gap between enthusiasm and real passion.
Can it be monetized?
This is the slimy question nobody thinks anyone should ask, but it must be faced. Why? Because if it can’t be monetized, it can’t be sustained or expanded. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes a good idea needs to piggy-back some other more profitable concept. Sometimes, the idea needs to go back into the incubator though.
These questions are seeds. You may have more to face. But at least face these and use them as a filter for every new idea. Let your genius lie asoak in the probing process. If an idea survives… wow!…

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Business Line

Secrets to Starting a Business Blog and Getting It Off the Ground

Are you just getting started with blogging for your business? This article is part of a series that will help you get your blog off the ground.
Choosing Your Post Length
There are differing opinions on this issue. Some expert bloggers suggest longer posts so that with each post, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and capture the reader’s interest in your topic. Others point out that some readers will click away from a post that seems really long before they have even had a chance to read it. They recommend keeping your posts short but informative.
I tend to side with the latter opinion. If it too short, readers may wonder if they have read anything of value, but I think it is even worse to make them too long, but the length will intimidate readers who otherwise might have stayed to read the post.
I suggest posts that are 200-500 words in length, especially if you are writing every day. If you would like to give more information that that you can write articles and provide a link to them in your blog post or create reports that you can offer your readers for free.
Increasing Traffic to Your Blog
Once you have your blog ready and have begun to post, how do you get people to find it? One way is to write articles, as I mentioned before, and post links to your blog at the end of them. Use an article directory, such as EzineArticles, and in the resource box, mention your blog and provide a link.
Another thing you can do is visit other blogs that have a similar topic and leave comments with a link back to your blog. Find the ones you enjoy reading and comment on them regularly. Other readers will want to know more about you and will follow you back to your own blog.
List Building
Ideally, your blog will help you find the customers who are interested in what you are selling. But if you can find a way to increase their exposure to you by adding them to your list, they get to know you better and you get a chance to persuade them to work with you or buy from you.
To add them to your list, you will need to have something on your blog that provides a reason for them to give you their name and email address. A sign-up box that offers a newsletter subscription, a free report or something else of value to them that they can only receive if they sign up for it. Place this sign-up box high on the page in an obvious place so that they will see it every time they visit your blog.…

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Business Insider

Structuring My Business to Save Tax

Whether you are a new business or have been trading for some time, you will at some point wonder whether you should you think of incorporating your business. Is it best to trade through your own limited company rather than as a sole trader or partnership? It’s a very good question to ask for both business and potential tax reasons. In general, it makes more sense to incorporate for business reasons rather than just to save tax, as the tax regime changes and any planned savings may no longer be available.
In some sectors, such as IT contractors, it is hard to obtain contracts unless you trade through a limited company. The reasons for this are not always obvious; it is just the way things are. If you are taking risks such as in ordering large stock for an order that could be cancelled, then there can be a real benefit in the limited liability offered by trading as a company. Your own possessions are generally protected from any claim made against the company. However, in many situations, taking out a good insurance policy is all you need.
Perhaps most significantly though, a company structure makes it easier to involve outside investors in the company. Any business seeking to involve new investors will find it easier to structure the business by issuing or selling shares rather than complicated partnership agreements.
There can be tax advantages in trading through a company as there is also more flexibility in handling the owner’s remuneration in such a way as to minimise the tax liability. Limited Companies are taxed on their trading profits, in addition to other sources of income such as interest and rent, and corporation tax is assessed after any owner’s salary has been deducted. It is possible therefore to adjust the amount taken from the company in any one tax year, as well as the way in which it is taken out. Some profits can be retained in the company if the owner would otherwise be likely to pay higher rate tax personally.
For sole traders all income is taxable on their business profits, in addition to any other sources of income. There is little or no flexibility for deferring some of those profits to another year if you happen to have a particularly good year and are taxed at the higher rate. An additional advantage of a company is that shareholders can take profits as dividends which do not attract National Insurance Contributions. It may not sound exciting but significant savings can be made by an appropriate remuneration strategy.
The company will be regulated by Companies House, which has strict rules for reporting trading accounts and for the conduct of directors and other company officials. You will need to be satisfied that you can manage the additional administrative burden. You can always start as a sole trader and later incorporate. In fact, this is a common route when a new business is unsure of how large it will grow and whether the savings will outweigh the costs. It may be that there is also a potential tax saving on incorporating the company but this will depend on whether there is any realistic goodwill in the business.
To consider this and other issues properly, you will need to consult a professional advisor. Incorporating tends to be a decision business owners make a few times at most over a lifetime, and it makes sense to consult an experienced expert before acting.…

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Business Letter

Want to Start a Business? Start With These Five Things

Like any other major endeavor, figuring out where to start in launching a business can be the toughest part. Of course, the path to successful entrepreneurship is long and winding with innumerable steps, but just getting started can be enough to build the momentum you need. Here are, in no particular order, the first five things you can do to get ready to strike out on your own.
1. Evaluate Business Ideas
Some would-be entrepreneurs know exactly what business they want to start, others have no idea but just want to work for themselves. Either way, it is essential to realistically assess your ideas and options before you spend money on it. Do some cursory research into the market and competition. Think about what you would need to get the business started. Talk to others (family, friends, networking contacts) about your ideas and listen for useful feedback. The more background work you do in evaluating your business ideas, the easier it will be to hone in on the best opportunity for you.
2. Make a Commitment
If you are serious about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, you need to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself. Set a deadline for taking the next step (choosing which business to start, beginning the business planning process, opening date) and figure out what needs to be done to get there. In most cases, finding the time to do the planning is difficult, so work on clearing time in your schedule to focus on your goal of entrepreneurship. Figure out what will keep you motivated to stay on track and set yourself up for success.
For example, gather some pictures or symbols of why you want to be an entrepreneur and place them prominently where you will see them frequently. It sounds cheesy, but can be very effective reminders to get you through the tedious aspects of starting a business.
3. Save Up
Bootstrapping a startup is a good way to keep costs under control, but it doesn’t make it free. Every business requires some capital to succeed, and the cash usually comes straight from the owner’s pocket. Even if you are planning to find investors or loans, you will need to show that you are risking your own assets before they will hand over theirs. Don’t count on finding grants for your startup – they are few and far between for new businesses and those that do exist usually have significant restrictions on how they can be spent. At a minimum, try to save between $3,000 and $5,000, more if your startup requires commercial facilities or inventory.
4. Get Organized
Before you dive into planning your business startup, get organized for success. In most cases your business planning will happen in a workspace at home. Select an office space with limited distractions and the tools you will need to work (desk space, internet connection, good lighting). Gather up basic office supplies and stock your workspace. Start using a planner to schedule your days so you are in the habit of managing your time.
Take care of any lingering projects around the house so you will not be tempted to avoid the tedious parts of your startup. Take a good look at what you currently do with your time and evaluate ways to open up some blocks of time for your business. The more organized you are before you start planning, the easier it will be to stay on track.
5. Start Talking
Talk up your plans with friends & family and whomever else you find yourself chatting with. Making this effort now does several things to help you succeed. First, telling others about your plans can “seal the deal” are likely to be more committed to making progress and they will provide support and encouragement as you go along. Second, you may be surprised at what you hear when you talk to others about your startup. Many will have knowledge or skills you were unaware of (which could turn out to be a great help), and listening to reactions to your business idea can help you modify and refine your plan to greater success. Third, talking about your plans to people you know will develop your networking skills. Whatever your business idea, networking with other entrepreneurs, customers, and suppliers is an essential key to success. The sooner you become comfortable and confident in talking about your business the better.…

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Business Line

Making Big Changes, Even When You’re Broke

The past few years have been difficult for many Americans. Jobs have been lost, the future is up in the air, and unexpected changes are all around. The one great outcome of hard times is that we tend to reevaluate what is important and take steps toward creating the life that we want. Of course, having plenty of cash can make big changes easier to accomplish, but being broke is no excuse for complacency. Even if you are struggling financially, make 2011 the year that you take back control and make some big moves in the right direction. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Design and Plan.
Take a good look at every area of your life – work, health, hobbies, family, whatever – and create a picture of how you’d like your future to be. Think big, as if there are no obstacles to getting what you want. Talk your ideas over with your spouse and close friends and family, but avoid the naysayers and negative nellies – you don’t need to hear all the reasons it can’t work right now! Once you have decided who, how, and where you want to be, develop step-by-step plans for getting from here to there. The more detailed the plan, the better, and be sure it includes steps that can be implemented immediately. Organize your plans so that you are doing something every day that moves you in the right direction.
Make the tough decisions.
The odds are that the exercise of connecting where you are now to where you want to be is going to reveal some serious obstacles. Whether those obstacles are financial (debt, income limits), personal (relationship issues, lack of support), or career-related (hate your job, lack of control), you are likely going to have to make some tough decisions to affect real change in your life. Those decisions might include bankruptcy or moving or taking bigger risks than you normally would, but they must be made to get to the life you want. Be honest with yourself about what needs to be done, then make the decision and go after it. Most of these things are like pulling off a bandaid – if you jump right in it will only hurt for a little while.
Do good.
One of the best things you can do to put your own life in perspective is to help out those less fortunate than you. Whatever your situation, there is always someone who is worse off and could use your help. Volunteer through a local nonprofit or church and spend a few hours each week doing good. Not only will you feel better about your own life, you will be helping out those who really need it as well. And, if you skip the movies and volunteer instead, you can save up your entertainment budget to put towards the parts of your redesigned life plan that require cash!
Knock off the To-do List.
Most of us have a ridiculously long to-do list in our head. You know, all those pesky chores and projects that pop into your thoughts at the most inconvenient times. Those tasks are a distraction, and if you are serious about making changes in your life, you should get those items off the list. Write them all down, set priorities for completing each task, and knock them off one-by-one as you are working on redesigning your life.
Start a business.
Owning a business is a dream of a great many of us, and there is no time like the present to follow that dream. Business that are started now will be poised to explode as the economy recovers, and there are some incredible deals available to small businesses right now. Commercial space is inexpensive, vendors are flexible, and quality workers are available and willing to work cheap. The recession knocked out the businesses that weren’t well-managed, and there are opportunities in just about every industry, in every part of the country. If launching a business is on your wish list for 2011, don’t wait another day!…

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Business Letter

Small Business Advice – Convert Prospects to Clients With This

I remember the conversation vividly. An entrepreneurial couple came to me for help because of a chronic problem with late payments from clients and the impact was, of course, their own financial struggle. I listened to what was happening and suggested they change their business model to require payment up front.
They said “Oh we couldn’t do that – no-one would pay us up front. No-one in our field does that.” I asked why and they didn’t really have a good reason other than being afraid that they would lose business if they asked for payment up front.
What I suggested next, however, brought on an immediate gasp and even more fear. But in fact, when they got past that fear and implemented this strategy, they easily got payment up front AND converted more prospects to paying clients.
The answer was to require payment up front AND include a guarantee. The word “guarantee” for some reason, makes a lot of entrepreneurs fearful. They are deathly afraid that if they offer an guarantee, they will end up refunding money to client after client.
But in fact, that’s just a fear. If you are 100% confident in the product or service you provide as a small business owner, offering a guarantee should be a no-brainer. Here’s how:
Guarantee the results:
If you have a track record of proven results in business, and you are confident in your ability to help your client achieve the result, then there’s no reason you couldn’t guarantee that result. One of my clients is a makeup artist. Having done hundreds of brides, she was confident in guaranteeing natural, flawless makeup application that lasts throughout their wedding day. That’s a result her clients are always looking to achieve, so it was a brilliant focus for her in converting prospects to clients.
Guarantee the service:
If service is of high importance to your client, it could very well be the thing to focus on in your guarantees. It can be the level of service you provide. For example, you can guarantee that your client will always get a response from you within a certain time frame.
Guarantee the experience:
Depending on the type of product or service you offer, you can also guarantee the experience your client would have. It’s similar to the service guarantee, but focused on what your client would experience after having done business with you. For example, if your clients tend to be afraid of the hassles in your industry, you can guarantee them a hassle-free experience.
Guarantee that they’ll be fully equipped:
For some services that depend on the client’s commitment to taking action, it may not be possible to guarantee the results. That’s because you have no control over how much action they take. However, you can certainly guarantee that they will walk away with everything they need to achieve the precise result they were seeking. For example, when I do a live workshop, I guarantee that my attendees will walk away with the exact formula for attracting a steady stream of clients like a magnet to their businesses.
So what’s your guarantee? Overall, it is important to pay close attention to the key objections or hesitations your prospects may have and insert some powerful guarantees around those objections so that you can easily convert prospects into paying clients.…